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December 2007 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee

December 2007 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee

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Published by: CNCC Desert Committee on Jan 03, 2011
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 In June 2000, Interior Secre t a ry Bru c eBabbitt established the National LandscapeC o n s e rvation System, placing a variety of c o n s e rvation lands and features managed bythe Bureau of Land Management into oneadministrative system. This new approach tomanaging western landscapes was the latest ina series of steps to broaden the BLM’s missionto include protection and pre s e rv a t i o n .
 Today, 5 1/2 years since its inception, the National LandscapeConservation System (NLCS) consists of more than 800 spec-tacular landscapes and features encompassing tens of millions of acres throughout the western United States and Alaska. NLCSunits include Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas (NCA’s), Wild andScenic Rivers, Historic Trails and other designations. While theNLCS is growing in recognition and acceptance, it faces signifi-cant obstacles that must be overcome if it is to have an enduringlegacy, joining the national parks and wildlife refuges as one of  America’s premiere conservation systems.Five years after its creation, The Wilderness Society conduct-ed an assessment of the NLCS. The study, available on their
December 15, 2007
News of the desert from Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee
Preserving The Best Of The RestOf The American West
 website, pointed out current shortfalls and identified a series of actions that Congress and the public could take to improve theeffectiveness of the system. Interviews with BLM managersrevealed both dedication and enthusiasm for the System and frus-tration with current problems.Primary among the problems the study identified is a severefunding shortfall. According to the study, “The 2006 budget forthe NLCS of $46 million translates to approximately $1.70 peracre, compared to the roughly $5 per acre that goes to theNational Wildlife Refuge System and roughly $19 per acre forthe National Park Service.” Because of inadequate funding, many NLCS units do not have adequate law enforcement presence,and baseline inventories, which provide critically importantinformation about the extent and condition of natural and cul-tural resources, remain unfinished. This and other managementneeds assessments and necessary actions such as boundary sign-ing, exotic species control, prescribed burning and re-vegetationcannot be completed.Some specific examples of the effects of the funding shortfallare as follows:
Of the eight NLCS National Monuments in the study sample,none had inventoried more that 18 percent of the area for cul-tural resources. Half had inventoried 6 percent or less of the Monument.
 Wilderness areas throughout the California desert are plaguedby off-road vehicle intrusions which damage vegetation andprotective soil crusts, subsequently causing erosion and dustparticulate pollution. Visible and lasting scars mar these other- wise pristine landscapes. Off-road vehicle impacts continue to bean issue despite a successful six year grant-funded effort by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to restore and rehabilitatedamaged areas.
continued on page 12
recently attended two functions, one held in PalmSprings and the other in Washington D.C., celebratingour National Lands Conservation System (NLCS). These ceremonies symbolize how important NLCShas become to the Bureau and our partners. It was wonderful tosee how the public, BLM employees, and members fro mCongress could come together and celebrate a common dreamfor managing public lands. When I first started working in BLM28 years ago few BLM employees would have predicted there would be ceremonies like these, or that this agency would have anationally recognized system of landscapes primarily managedfor conservation purposes. Now we not only have ceremonies,but both an NLCS Coalition and a bi-partisan CongressionalNLCS Caucus have been formed to help the Bureau promoteand manage our “crown jewel” landscapes. Other BLM employ-ees and I all remarked at the events that this is a “dream-come-true.”NLCS is not only a symbolic system, but it also puts a newfocus on BLM’s mission. Proof of this has been the creation of anNLCS Directorate and staff within BLM. Only fire and lawenforcement offices have equivalents in the BLM. All the areas are withdrawn from future mining and any gen-eral lands laws incompatible with their long term protection. The only exceptions are valid existing rights or when directed inlegislation. In addition, within each designated area the primacy of conservation of natural and/or heritage values is permanent.Unlike most conservation systems, such as in the NationalRefuge System or National Park System, there is a wider rangeof uses generally allowed within the multiple-use context. Withinthe NLCS, the uses must be consistent with the conservationand/or heritage values. Finally, for nearly all the NLCS areas, itis BLM’s goal to manage them in partnership with the surround-ing communities. Unlike the Park Service, we generally will notprovide food, lodging, and visitor services. Instead, visitors willbe encouraged to see the landscapes in the context of the history and tradition of the areas - a “self-discovery”.By consolidating congressionally protected areas into onenationally recognized system NLCS promotes a more positiveidentity for BLM both internally and extern a l l y. Morei m p o rt a n t l y, the NLCS concept re p resents the Bure a u ’sacknowledgement and encouragement of the role of conserva-tion management within the agency. Both are important not only for the continued long term future of Bureau but also for the
NLCS:Preserving The Best Of The Rest Of The American West................1NLCS:A BLM Employee’s Perspective......................................................2 A New Future For The Whitewater Trout Farm..........................................3Saving The Forgotten Colorado River........................................................4Ft. Mojave Tribe/PG&E/DTSC Historic Settlement Reached......................6Current Issues..........................................................................................7Uncertain Future For The Desert Cahuilla Prehistoric Area......................8Restoring The “Eternal Silence”To Grand Canyon ..................................10Dramatic Change For Ivanpah Valley........................................................11Outings......................................................................................................16
 A BLM Employee’sPerspective
DECEMBER 15,2007
continued on page 14
Desert Report is published at three month intervals. This means,necessarily,that some topics are rather out of date by the time theyappear in the next printed issue. In an effort to be more timely,several departments in Desert Report will be updated on-line between theregular printings. Both the “Outings”section and the “Current Issues”sec-tion are now updated between the regular printings. You are encouragedto consult the Desert Report website to find recently added outings and tofind information on recently developing issues in desert conservation. Another feature which appears in the on-line version of Desert Reportis an index of articles and subjects published in past issues. This has beencreated byTom Budlong who is also keeping the index current. The DesertCommittee thanks Tom for undertaking this formidable task.The web address for the Desert Report is:http://www.desertreport.org.We have four meetings a year,usually the second weekend in February,May,August,and November.The site for the February meeting will beShoshone,CA. The May meeting will be at the Wind Wolves Preserve in thesouthern San Joaquin Valley.We especially encourage local citizens in thearea to attend,as many of the items on the agenda include local issues.Contact Tom Budlong at (310-476-1731),tombudlong@adelphia.net,to beput on the invitation list.
n October, 2006, the Whitewater Trout Company wasacquired by The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC) andbecame the Whitewater Preserve. The 291 acre prop-erty was donated to TWC by Friends of the Desert Mountains with help from Coachella Valley MountainsConservancy under terms of a conservation easement. Cleanupof the property is now underway, aiming toward a projectedopening to the public in the Spring of 2007—with a new focus.Future plans include a trailhead to access the Pacific Crest Trail,a public campground and picnic area, an interpretive center atthe historic lodge, and children’s education programs. The fishhatchery will no longer be one of the uses, but many of the ponds will remain.Set back from Interstate 10 and the windmill farms that fill theSan Gorgonio Pass outside of Palm Springs, the preserve pro- vides respite from the expanding cityscape below. Nativesycamores, cottonwoods, and willows surround ponds that oncestocked the southernCalifornia area with brownand rainbow tro u t .Remnants of a fan palm woodland, high cliffs thatare home to a herd of DesertBighorn Sheep, and a por-tion of the WhitewaterRiver which is a key watersupply for the Coachella Valley cities make this pieceof land a key addition in theunfolding conservation story of Whitewater Canyon. The Whitewater Tro u tCompany opened for busi-ness in 1939, selling fishdirectly out of ponds on theproperty to visiting anglers,and raising trout to stock lakesand streams all over southernCalifornia. Through time,p roduction increased andmore ponds were built tofeed the higher demand. This created a large, con-stant flow of fresh water out of the ponds at Whitewater, creat-ing a riparian woodland at the base of cliffs before the flow re- joined the main river channel. This woodland is important habi-tat for Desert Bighorn Sheep, Least Bell’s Vireo, and southwest-ern arroyo toad. This area is also habitat for endangered triple-ribbed milkvetch and the Little San Bernardino Mountainslinanthus. Water flow through the property will be maintained,although trout will no longer be hatched or raised. Water willnow be used to expand the wetland areas and expand key habitat. The historic lodge building and several of the ponds will remainas well, a legacy of the former hatchery. Whitewater Canyon drains the east slopes of Mount SanGorgonio, the highest point in southern California. It functionsas an important wildlife corridor for large mammals, birds, andplants moving between the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Mountains. The Whitewater River provides a reliable, year-
DECEMBER 15,2007
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A New Future For TheWhitewater Trout Farm
 A view up Whitewater Canyon. The high forested ridges of the San Bernardino Mountains stand insharp contrast to the dry lower canyon
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